Money and duty free for Colombia
Currency and Money
Colombian Peso (COP; symbol Col$) = 100 centavos. Notes are in denominations of Col$100,000, 50,000, 20,000, 10,000, 5,000 and 2,000. Coins are in denominations of Col$1,000, 500, 200, 100, 50 and 20. US Dollars are sometimes accepted, but be aware that you may be viewed as a rich tourist if you try to pay with dollars and you might find that the prices go up. Also be aware that there are a large amount of counterfeit US dollars in Colombia, so if you need change, get it in Colombian Pesos.
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, American Express and Diners Club less so. There are ATMs throughout the main cities; some will allow cash withdrawals using Visa, MasterCard or Cirrus. Ensure you know the number to call to cancel your card quickly if it is stolen, and inform your bank beforehand that you will be travelling to Colombia in case your accounts are frozen upon use.
There are ATMs throughout the main cities; some will allow cash withdrawals using Visa, Mastercard or Cirrus. While the prevalence of ATMs is increasing throughout the country, in smaller, rural towns and villages you should ensure you have enough cash to last until you get back to a bigger city. ATMs can be temperamental, run out of money or not work for you when they worked perfectly well the day before. Try to use ATMs in the daytime rather than after dark, and within banks with security guards if possible.
The most commonly accepted traveller's cheques are those issued by American Express and Citicorp. Traveller's cheques can be exchanged at banks, hotels or bureaux de change. They are generally not accepted as a form of payment, other than at major hotels. While safe, generally traveller’s cheques should be avoided in case you can find nowhere which will take them; ATMs are a much more efficient way of handling your money. If you do choose to bring traveller’s cheques, make sure you take them in US Dollars.
Mon-Fri 0900-1500. On the last business day of every month, banks close at 1200.
The import and export of local and foreign currencies is unlimited, but amounts exceeding the equivalent of US$10,000 must be declared.
Currency should be exchanged at hotels, banks and bureaux de change only, though most places charge commission. Travellers are advised against changing money on the street. The US Dollar is the easiest currency to exchange. When crossing borders, in particular in Ipiales, be very careful with the money changers, and make sure you do the calculations on your own.
Colombia duty free
The following items may be taken into Colombia by travellers 18 years of age and older without incurring customs duty:
• 200 cigarettes and 50 cigars and up to 250g of tobacco.
• 2 bottles of alcoholic beverages.
• Goods for personal use to the value of US$1,500.
Ammunition and firearms (unless prior authorisation has been obtained), vegetables, plants or plant material, and meat and animal food products.
Taking cultural artefacts out of the country is prohibited, so if tour guides offer to sell you goods from tombs, politely decline. Colombian coffee is not prohibited, but will most likely be opened and checked. Drugs are absolutely forbidden, with harsh penalties for non-compliance.
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